United Auto Workers President Gary Jones announced Monday that worker strike pay has increased from $200 to $250 a week, signaling the possibility of walkouts just a few months before U.S. worker contracts expire. While it would appear the UAW is preparing to strike, President Gary Jones said it’s not the union’s intent. “No one goes to the bargaining table expecting to strike. But the UAW goes to the bargaining table prepared to strike if our members need to strike,” Jones said. “Raising the strike fund is an important symbol that we have their backs.”
However, Jones chose slightly different phrasing when addressing union members at Cobo Hall on Monday. “Activism and solidarity, that is what secures our power,” Jones told hundreds of union members in Detroit. “The stakes are high. We are ready … We are ready to gear up and fight for what is right. We are ready to fight for our brothers and sisters and act as one.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be in Michigan this week to meet with union leaders from United Auto Workers in a bit to gain their approval for the Trump administration’s new North American free trade deal. Lighthizer is scheduled to meet with union officials in Dearborn on Tuesday to answer questions about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) while simultaneously drumming up support.
The USMCA deal suggests increasing existing requirements for North American content for vehicles, stipulating that 40 percent of a vehicle’s overall content be manufactured in areas paying at least $16 an hour, while also encouraging Mexico to tailor its labor rules to allow unions to wield legitimate collective bargaining powers.
Canada’s autoworker union Unifor brought out the guy from Dune to protest a General Motors plant closure, but UAW went a few steps further. The American auto union hit GM with a lawsuit Tuesday, claiming the company’s decision to shutter three plants violates its 2015 collective bargaining agreement.
However, GM may have an out.
There’s no love lost between General Motors and Canadian Detroit Three autoworkers union Unifor. The former plans to shutter the historic Oshawa Assembly plant in Ontario this year, the latter would prefer it didn’t. It would also prefer some product to build there.
Amid the turmoil surrounding GM’s wide-ranging cost-cutting efforts, Unifor released a commercial Sunday slamming GM for abandoning both its workforce and consumers. The title of the ad? “GM leaves Canadians Out In the Cold.”
GM’s message to Unifor? Cool it.
Two days after blockading roads leading to General Motors’ Canadian headquarters, autoworkers union Unifor rolled out an invisible wall to be placed between Canadians and GM vehicles built south of the Rio Grande.
The union’s call to boycott Mexican-made GM products doesn’t come as a surprise; Unifor president Jerry Dias threatened it in the past as a way of prodding corporate bosses in Detroit to keep the century-old Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant open. With the union now escalating its protest action, the boycott call is out. GM Canada isn’t happy about it, claiming it will only end up hurting Canadian workers.
Things are starting to get truly ugly between Canada’s Unifor and General Motors. On Friday, the union held a rally in Windsor, Ontario, with that automaker’s headquarters just a river away. During the event, Unifor President Jerry Dias expressed his annoyance with the automaker’s restructuring plan and promised to bring the noise to GM’s front door during the North American International Auto Show this week.
Friday’s gathering, which Unifor and the Windsor and District Labour Council claimed drew around 2,000 people despite its brevity, focused primarily on the company’s decision to shift more of its North American production to Mexico and the shuttering of Oshawa Assembly and the end of this year. Dias said he wants the union to work with the automaker to keep Canadian jobs and avoid a potential boycott. Though that might be just around the corner, as the UAW has already issued a boycott of its own within the United States.
The faint hope that existed at the end of 2018 in regards to General Motors’ Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant no longer exists, except maybe in the minds of the most optimistic of union brass. On Tuesday, the automaker told Unifor, the union representing Detroit Three autoworkers in Canada, that its proposals to save the country’s oldest auto plant weren’t feasible.
GM laid out its reasoning in a letter to Unifor President Jerry Dias. As before, it all came down to cost … and the public’s dislike of cars.
Last week a lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Youngstown claiming that General Motors is in violation of a “memorandum of understanding” with the United Automobile Workers by allowing temporary employees to support the launch of some new product from Fort Wayne Assembly Plant. The facility, which is responsible for manufacturing the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, is alleged to have brought on temporary workers from May to August of 2018 instead of using its laid-off full-time workers. The UAW claims this is decision represents a breach of contract.
The union says there are nearly 700 workers laid off from the “nearby” Lordstown, Ohio Assembly Plant — many of whom have applied to transfer to the Fort Wayne as is their right under the current contract with GM.
As General Motors takes aim at its own foot in the United States, it’s managed to become Mexico’s top automaker by volume. The company saw a nearly 3 percent U.S. decline in the fourth quarter of 2018, during which it announced the shuttering of several U.S. and Canadian facilities as part of a widespread restructuring program aimed at freeing capital for autonomous and electric vehicle development.
Meanwhile, large investments in its Mexican plants over the last few years — coming at the same time as rival Nissan’s scaling back of sedan production — has left GM as the top dog in the region. General Motors and Nissan have spent decades jousting for the top spot south of the border, alternating positions “depending on what has happened in their production levels,” according to Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst at IHS Markit.
It isn’t looking good. There’s a greater-than-likely chance we’ll soon have a flexible yet unwanted assembly plant sitting vacant on the other side of the lake from Rochester, New York, joining two transmission facilities, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, and Lordstown Assembly on GM’s Island of Misfit Plants.
The union representing Detroit Three automakers north of the border is fighting to keep it open, buying up pages of ad space in Detroit newspapers and taking its case to the loftiest denizens of the Renaissance Center. In a week’s time, General Motors will either give the autoworkers of Oshawa something to be thankful for, or squash any remaining hope.
It’s been roughly a month since General Motors announced it would be shuttering Oshawa Assembly, leaving the facility’s nearly 3,000 employees and Canada’s auto union more than a little annoyed. Unifor leadership has said it intends to meet with GM executives on December 20th and discuss the automaker’s plans for the Oshawa facility in Detroit. However, the rhetoric coming from union head Jerry Dias makes the upcoming meeting sound more like a mafia hit than a labor negotiation.
“GM is leaving Canada, and we’re not going to let them,” Dias told reporters. “We are going to waste General Motors over the next year. Waste them.”
Employees at Tesla’s solar-panel factory in Buffalo, New York, are launching a drive to unionize with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steelworkers. The campaign aims to unify about 300 production and maintenance employees at the the facility. If it succeeds, it will be the first time the automaker has failed to stop its staff from organizing inside the U.S.
The EV manufacturers’ labor force wants the same thing we all want — more money. Many claim that Tesla offers unfair wages and believe collective bargaining is the only road to higher pay.
The training center embezzlement scandal currently rocking the United Auto Workers began with the indictment of a former Fiat Chrysler labor chief who offered kickbacks to select union officials in exchange for favorable treatment. Alphons Iacobelli, the ex-FCA executive in question, was sentenced to five years in federal prison last August but spent nearly 10 months helping the FBI’s investigation into unionized corruption, resulting in additional indictments.
Federal prosecutors have secured convictions of seven people linked to the conspiracy at this point, claiming FCA executives provided gifts or covert cash payments through the jointly operated UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in an effort to influence collective bargaining. It became such a problem that several union officials now claim they engaged in illicit activities because they were fearful of bucking the trend, losing their six-figure salaries, and being forced back onto factory floors — you know, like the people they were supposed to be representing.
On Monday, former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison for tax evasion and his key role in the corporate conspiracy to win favorable treatment from the UAW. Apparently, his plea agreement didn’t help him avoid jail time, but it was enough to shave a few years off his sentence.
Iacobelli pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to violate the Labor Management Relations Act and for subscribing a false tax return in January. At the time, he was facing a maximum sentence that included eight years in prison. However, his $835,000 tax-restitution case is yet to be resolved and will be decided upon at a future date. Iacobelli will continue assisting with the investigation in the interim and, likely, beyond.
Remember the multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving UAW officials? Apparently, it was even more corrupt than previously reported. While the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center is suing both Fiat Chrysler and the union members involved, recent developments point to the money scheme being greenlit by former UAW President Dennis Williams.
As part of a plea agreement filed this week, ex-labor official Nancy Adams Johnson told investigators that Williams specifically directed union members to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals, entertainment, and more. If true, the accusation not only implicates the UAW of corruption at the highest level but also the potential involvement of staff from both Ford and General Motors — something the FBI is already looking into.
I believe the official industry term for something like this is a “shit show.”
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